Abortion Law in New South Wales: Shifting from Criminalisation to the Recognition of the Reproductive Rights of Women and Girls

Thomson Reuters
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of Law and Medicine, 2017, 24
Issue Date:
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This article considers the legislative framework governing abortion in New South Wales and argues that the decriminalisation of abortion with no restrictions would more effectively support, recognise and facilitate the fulfilment of women and girls’ reproductive rights. It further recommends mandating exclusion zones, placing a duty on medical practitioners to perform surgical terminations or to prescribe medical (chemical) abortions or refer a client to medical practitioners who will, and the establishment of accessible, culturally appropriate facilities for surgical abortions across urban and rural areas. It begins by evaluating two models of abortion that have been introduced in Australia, the first created by the Abortion Law Reform Act 2000 in Victoria and the second created by amendments to the Health Act 1993 in 2002 in the Australian Capital Territory. While both models are praiseworthy for striving to balance the interests of varying interest groups, this article argues neither model fully recognises the reproductive rights of women and girls. Both models create differing regimes of medicalisation in which medical practitioners are given paternalistic gatekeeping responsibilities in relation to women’s access to abortion. In these models and in the criminalisation model currently in place in NSW, women in marginalised communities such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, immigrant, rural, remote and low socio-economic demographics are further marginalised and afforded less access to abortion.
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